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Santa Monica Could Require Restaurants on City Property to Unionize

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The City Council votes on the proposal Tuesday night

Santa Monica Pier at dusk, Santa Monica, California.
Santa Monica Pier
Shutterstock/Vadik Swenson

A proposal goes before the Santa Monica City Council tomorrow evening, and its approval could change the way city-leased restaurants operate. Its approval will require any restaurant located on city property to sign Labor Peace Agreements or LPA, which makes it easier for employees to unionize.

According to the Santa Monica Lookout, the Council’s interest in LPAs began in 2016 when the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union Local 11 picketed the Spitfire Grill. Those protests were in response to the 2016 closure of the 25-year-old Typhoon restaurant. Typhoon’s owner alleged the closure was due to a massive rent hike. Both restaurants had longstanding leases at the Santa Monica Airport, which City of Santa Monica governs.

The Council proposal mirrors a similar agreement at the San Francisco Airport, where employers must agree to not resist the union’s organizing attempts as a Labor Peace Agreement. They could require a Card Check, which allows a majority of employees to organize into a labor union and consents to union representation. The Council’s proposal gives employers 30 days to enter the Labor Peace/Card Check agreement, and after 30 days must honor unionization efforts.

The 27 mostly independent small restaurants on city properties have concerns about cost and autonomy if the approval passes this week. The proposal impacts every restaurant on the Santa Monica Pier, including Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Rusty’s Surf Ranch, and Seaside on the Pier.

Fred Deni owns Back on the Beach Cafe near the Annenberg Community Beach House. In a letter to the Council, Deni stated, “Our local and return customers know the employees on a personal level. If we were, down the line, forced to hire only union-selected servers, the strong bonds between ownership and employees would be weakened, and the familial character of Back on the Beach would change forever.”

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